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I have a recipe for making Italian Breadcrumbs. If I leave the bread out on the counter it molds before it dries enough. I thought making breadcrumbs would be a great way to use some of my homemade bread. I love making bread but unfortunately it dries out to fast for sandwiches, but not enough for breadcrumbs. Is there a way to dry it out before it molds? I have tried all kinds of bread, some hydrated more than others.

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You don't want to dry it on the counter... put slices or small pieces in the oven on low heat or grind it in a food processor and toast it in a skillet until it's crisp and brown.

Stale bread is not "dry"... it's stale and it's only on the surface. If you want truly dry bread, you need to toast it and really get rid of all of the moisture.

From Serious Eats, they discuss the difference and Kenji explains their preferred method (though this is for stuffing, the information is the same):

Drying involves the evaporation of moisture from within a piece of bread. The structure of the bread remains more or less the same, though it becomes less pliable because of the moisture loss. Dry but not stale bread will be crisp like a cracker and crumble into a fine powder.

Staling is the process by which moisture migrates out of swollen starch granules and into the spaces in the bread. The moisture-deprived starch molecules then recrystallize, forming tough structures within the bread. The moisture may remain trapped within the structure of the bread, giving you a loaf that's simultaneously moist but stale. It'll taste leathery and chewy, but not cracker-y or dry.

Staling occurs most readily at refrigerator temperatures, so it's best to store bread either on the counter or in the freezer (well wrapped, to prevent drying).

So, knowing this, we realized that despite all the recipes that call for stale bread for stuffing, what we're really after here is dry bread—bread that has had plenty of moisture driven out of it, giving it more room to absorb flavorful stock. Staling takes time. Luckily for us, drying is fast.

I dry my bread by toasting it in a low (275°F/135°C) oven for about 45 minutes, tossing it a couple of times halfway through. By drying the bread like this, you make enough room in two regular-sized loaves (about two and a half pounds of bread) to absorb a full four cups of chicken or turkey broth. It's so much broth that it almost tastes like you baked it in the bird, even if you decide to do it in a separate pan. I recommend starting it with foil on top to trap some moisture, before removing the foil and crisping up the top.

So, please don't waste your lovely home-made bread by leaving it out to go stale. Dry it using heat.

Also, I'm going to hazard to say, if your recipe doesn't already call for truly drying your bread, you might want to find a better one.

You can always make lots of it and freeze it... my dad's been freezing his breadcrumbs for decades and they work great.

  • That's a great idea, I never thought about freezing some. – GJ.Baker May 15 '17 at 23:49
  • Making your own is the best! Using this method puts those store bought bread crumbs to shame. – haakon.io May 16 '17 at 16:23
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If you'll recall from science classes, water turns to steam when it reaches 212° F (100° C). So, to rapidly remove the water from bread (i.e., dry it out) set your oven just above that -- say 225° F (or 105° C). In the meantime, if you haven't done so already, cut your bread up into cubes of one inch or less (smaller is better) and scatter them in a single layer on a baking sheet. (You can put multiple sheets in the oven at once. You can pile the cubes up, too, but it will require you to stir them occasionally (at least once) and will take longer.) Put them in the oven and in less than a half hour, you should have nicely dried bread cubes that you can easily break (or grind) into crumbs.

Tip: if you have a convection oven, use the same temperature and they'll be done even faster.

Note: Regardless of whether you use a regular or convection oven, you can increase the temperature to speed up the process, but be careful: the hotter the oven, the faster the bread will start toasting on the outside before it's dried through and through, which will impart a flavor to the bread crumbs that you might not desire. In any case, I wouldn't chance running the temp any higher than 275° F (135° C) -- and you'll want to pull them from the oven quickly once they dry out.

Bonus: If you have plenty of bread and you know you'll need more eventually, make extra crumbs and keep them in an airtight container. (Resealable plastic bags work well for this, allowing you to squeeze out any extra air, which contains some degree of humidity, which leads to spoilage.) Better yet, keep that airtight container of extra crumbs in the freezer and they'll keep for a couple of extra months or more.

  • Actually water turns into vapour at any temperature, not just at boiling point. So, drying happens at any temperature too for as long as there is a humidity gradient or "water concentration" difference between the food and its surrounding air. – user110084 May 16 '17 at 22:15
  • Yes, I know. We're trying to speed things up when making breadcrumbs, so as not to allow the bread to spoil while waiting for the majority of water to evaporate from it. I wrote, "water turns to steam when it reaches 212° F," which is correct. Adding sufficient heat to raise water's temperature beyond the boiling point forces it to vaporize MUCH faster than leaving it at whatever might pass for room temperature. – Bob May 17 '17 at 15:32
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Just putting bread in the fridge between 2 paper's will dry it in a few days. Then set it on the counter to finish or in the oven on low for a hour. The freezer also will work. Setting any bread out on the counter I do not advise. Ants find it fast in the tropics. Once dry grind it & store in sealed used icecream box's. With a little rice in the bottom. This is tropics. High humidity area here. Our ants love bread here also.

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The freezer is probably the gentlest way to dry out bread and quite a few other things. Cut the bread into slices or small chunks, wrap them in a paper or fabric towel (something permeable), and leave them in the freezer for a week or two. This is effectively freeze drying without a vacuum pump. This is the first step for my croutons and breadcrumbs. Obviously, if you just wanted to store bread in the freezer, you would not use a permeable wrapping.

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